BUILDING SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES

JOURNEY DATES: April 29 – May 06, 2018
REGISTRATION DEADLINE: February 28, 2018

Despite its rich and beautiful ancient history, robust tourism industry and being the largest economy in Central America, Guatemala’s human development index is the lowest of any other country in the region. Due to a combination of historical events such as Spanish colonization, and the more recent US-backed civil war where approximately 200,000 Mayans were killed, the indigenous people of Guatemala continue to remain undereducated, underprivileged and unrepresented in a vastly corrupt government. Approximately 70% of indigenous children in Guatemala are chronically malnourished—ranking it the fourth highest rate in the world. And like many areas of the world, girls and women are thought to be of less value than men. Many describe the face of Guatemalan poor as young, female, indigenous and rural.

Join GoPhilanthropic’s Journey to Guatemala, to experience the immense natural, historic and cultural magnificence of this region while also delving into the country’s alarming lack of educational, health and economic opportunities in Mayan communities. Meet with courageous change-makers and programs applying creative and innovative methods to fighting poverty, discrimination and gender-inequality. Learn about and join GoPhilanthropic’s partnership model that focuses on strengthening and scaling the work of various NGOs making important progress.

ABOUT THE JOURNEY TO GUATEMALA

  • Visit the colonial UNESCO city of Antigua with cobble-stoned streets, art galleries and Spanish colonial-era ruins.
  • Meet EntreMundos, an organization that is creating change in the indigenous communities of Guatemala with community grants as small as $270.00.
  • Experience the inspiring Aula Magica, a grassroots program teaching basic language and preschool skills to indigenous Mayan children who have never seen the inside of a classroom, 27% of whom will drop out during first grade.
  • Learn about the challenges Mayan communities face in accessing basic care—engage with ASSADE Health Clinic, a clinic run by small principled team meeting the health needs of seven villages.
  • Interact with the dedicated staff at Centro Maya, a rehabilitation center for children with physical or cognitive disabilities, many of whom who have been kept hidden away at home but who now have the opportunity to flourish and achieve their full capacity.
  • Visit Cultiva Homestead, where they teach critical skills such as sustainable gardening to the area’s neediest families.
  • Explore the beautiful Lake Atitlan region with indigenous villages known for their traditional artisan products.
  • Tour the fascinating ancient ruins of Iximache and meet a local Shaman who will perform an authentic Mayan ceremony.
  • Enjoy comfortable, beautiful, and authentic accommodations throughout the journey.
  • OPTIONAL privately guided extensions to Tikal—an ancient Mayan citadel in the rainforests of northern Guatemala.

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April 29, 2018 (Sunday) • Arrival in Guatemala City – La Aurora International Airport

Upon arrival, you will be greeted by a bilingual guide and taken to your boutique hotel in Antigua. Antigua is said to be one of the world’s best-preserved colonial cities. The nearly 500 year-old city sits at the foot of three volcanoes and is lined with colonial-era mansions, churches and convents, boutiques and art galleries—all with varying displays of aging yet colorful facades.

Located on a cobblestone street across from the legendary Capuchinas Convent, in the heart of Antigua Guatemala, El Convento Boutique Hotel draws upon the history and culture of this famous city, creating a beautiful blend of traditional simplicity and modern convenience.

 

April 30, 2018 (Monday) • Antigua Villages and Walking Tour

 

After breakfast, we will have a short meeting to get acquainted and to review various aspects of our journey together. We will share some of GoPhilanthropic’s lessons learned over the years such as the value of entering into visits with an openness to “listen and learn” instead of “serve and solve” and ways to ensure we are respectful of culture and tradition while visiting. We will discuss both the opportunities and ethics of the use of photography in our journeys and explore ways to best capture and celebrate dignity.

We’ll start our exploration of colonial Antigua with a short ride to the mountain town of Santa Maria de Jesús, where many women still wear their beautiful, traditional Mayan dress. From Santa Maria, we’ll travel through the former capital of Guatemala, Ciudad Vieja (Old City), stopping to visit its historic 18th century church and see daily life in the city. Then it’s on to the village of San Antonio Aguas Calientes, renowned for the exquisite intricacy of the women’s weaving. You’ll visit a women’s textile cooperative, where weavers will demonstrate how they create these artistic pieces.

After lunch, enjoy a walking tour of ancient “La Antigua”, as it’s often called. This stunning city was the country’s capital for over 200 years. It offers a fascinating blend of European and Mayan culture, with its monumental sixteenth century Baroque churches and vibrant natural beauty. La Antigua has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers an amazing collection of museums, churches, ruins, boutiques and galleries displaying a rich history of art and culture.

Dinner is at leisure at any of Antigua’s quaint wine bars and fantastic restaurants (we recommend Hector’s, Los Tres Tiempos, Mezon Panza Verde, Ikazaya, or Rainbow Café).

May 01, 2018 (Tuesday) • Visit Entre Mundos & Optional Cooking Class

After breakfast we will gather in the hotel to hear a presentation by Fabio Carbona, the Director of our newest NGO partner, EntreMundos (EM). EM makes small grants to Guatemalan NGOs to empower and support them as they improve social, economic, environmental, and human rights development in the country’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. Each year EntreMundos receives more than 100 applications for the Small Grants Program and funds between 20 and 25 proposals.

EM’s GoPhilanthropic pilot grant provides economic support and technical advice to these local organizations that work in the field of rural development and the defense and promotion of human rights, so that they can implement their important community projects. After learning more about EM’s programs, our group will visit a EM-funded activity in the area of Antigua via private van, accompanied by Fabio.

Return to Antigua and enjoy the afternoon at leisure. Optional activities include browsing various local art museums and boutiques, enjoying the lively and colorful cobblestone streets of this special colonial city or just relaxing.

Optional tour: Art in Americas, takes you to the homes and private studios of established and emerging Guatemalan and indigenous artists around Antigua. You will meet the artists and view their private collections and works in progress in a relaxed, informative and intimate atmosphere. $50 for groups of 2-6.

In the late afternoon, participate in an optional two and a half hour, six course cooking class at La Tortilla Cooking School. Sip unlimited wine and feast on the resulting traditional Guatemalan dinner. $45 per person.

May 02, 2018 (Wednesday) • Visit ASSADE Health Clinic & transfer by van to Lake Atitlan

After breakfast we will check out of our hotel and drive through the countryside 45 minutes to the small city of San Andres de Itzapa where we will meet the founders and staff of ASSADE— a health clinic offering basic health care to an astounding 600-800 indigenous people per month.

A few statistics…

  • 53% of the overall population, and 71.5% of the rural population live in extreme poverty – under $1.50 a day.
  • 32 out of every 1,000 children die before the age of 5.
  • Guatemala has the second highest maternal mortality rate in Latin America, behind Haiti.
  • 48% of children under the age of 5 and 80% of indigenous children under age 5 are chronically malnourished.
    • Source: UN Stats, UNICEF

Maria Elena, the founder of ASSADE, and her son Julio Letona will describe the courageous and inspirational history behind creating this much needed clinic as we discuss some of the variables affecting Guatemala’s lack of health services today.

After our visit we will have lunch and then make our way to Lake Atitlan (2.5 hours away by van transfer). Once at the Lake we will transfer by “lancha” boat (20 mins) to the serene lakeside town of Santa Cruz. “Atitlan” is a Mayan word, which means “the place where the rainbow gets its colors.” It is said to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and is one of Guatemala’s most important tourist attractions.

Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America, with a maximum depth of 1,115 feet. The lake basin was formed nearly 85,000 years ago as a result of volcanic activity. Three dormant volcanoes surround its shores. The lake area is surrounded by 12 indigenous villages, inhabited by predominantly Tz’utujil and Kakchiquel, modern-day Maya, who still wear traditional clothing and depend on farming to make their living. They are also known for their handcrafted products, including weaving, jewelry and pottery.

After arriving at our cozy, eco-hotel, you will have time to enjoy a late afternoon hike, swim, kayak or spa.

Casa del Mundo is a quaint hotel located in a remote location near the small village of Jaibalito, with wonderful views over the lake and its surrounding volcanoes. The hotel is built on a hillside along the lake with the main rooms and buildings up, away from the lakeshore. The restaurant offers guests breakfast ‘a la carte’, but operates a family-style dinner. Reservations can be made to enjoy the hotel’s jacuzzi on the shore of the lake.

May 03, 2018 (Thursday) • Visit Aula Mágica

Today we will meet with representatives of Aula Magica (Magic Classroom), an elementary prep program in the villages of the Guatemalan highlands. Preschool is not a requirement in Guatemala and is rarely offered in remote, rural indigenous areas. 40% of first-graders are underprepared for first grade both socially and from a skills perspective. More than 20 languages are spoken by the Mayans, but not Spanish. However, in academic settings only Spanish is spoken. Therefore the vast majority of rural Mayan first-graders are entering school without knowing the language in which they will be taught. Across Guatemala, an amazing 27% of first-graders fail or drop out in their first year of school. This percentage is much higher in rural areas, perpetuating a cycle of illiteracy and lack of opportunity.

AM’s mission is to help young children be successful in first grade, a good indicator that they will continue on in school. AM has recruited young local women who have graduated from school to work as teachers with small groups of Mayan children in their highland villages, the coastal areas, and the around Lake Atitlan. This morning we will visit several of the AM programs around the Lake.

After lunch we will return to Casa del Mundo by boat, where we have the remainder of the afternoon for rest and relaxation.

May 04, 2018 (Friday) • Tour San Juan, Visit Centro Maya and Cultiva Homestead

This morning we will ride across the Lake to San Juan La Laguna, a quaint village home to a variety of naïf paintings created by self-taught artists depicting the customs, history, and legends of the town. In San Juan, we will connect with Centro Maya, a small NGO that provides education and health services to children and adults with a vast range of disabilities. Due to the alarming rates of malnutrition in Guatemala, coupled with little to no maternal health care, disabilities are all too common. Unfortunately, many children suffering from physical or mental challenges are often shamed and kept hidden at home, with no options to explore their potential. Parents and the community at large (including teachers and administrators) are ill- informed and ill-equipped to manage the stigma or the stress associated with mental or physical health issues. Despite its size and lack of outside funding and support, Centro Maya offers an impressive range of services—from physiotherapy to special education and psychological services.

Stroll down San Juan’s cobblestone streets for lunch at Café Almas de Colores — Centro Maya’s organic cafe run by students of the program and reflective of their “social inclusion” program. Over lunch, have the opportunity to talk to Centro Maya staff about the challenges they face providing education and therapy to this most marginalized of the Mayan population.

After lunch, enjoy some free time to wander around San Juan and enjoy local art galleries, visit textile co-ops to learn how traditional Mayan fabrics are produced, or perhaps stop to enjoy a cup of famed Guatemalan coffee.

We will then make our way to NGO Cultiva Homestead, a resource center and farm teaching “seed to plate” nutrition and small plot gardening to Mayan families in two highland communities. Classes are taught by Cultiva staff and volunteers in the local K’iche’ language. After completing the classes, the local families volunteer time working on the homestead and build raised bed gardens of their own. Cultiva volunteers continue to work with the families during the following year to ensure the success of the family gardens. These families, who depend on agriculture for sustenance must commit to using the family garden for family meals and not to sell. In the past two years, Cultiva volunteers have built over 800 family raised bed gardens in these two rural communities.

Return by “lancha” to Casa del Mundo. Over our farewell dinner, we will reflect on the various programs we have visited and discuss GoPhilanthropic’s partnership goals aimed at strengthening our partner’s efforts.

May 05, 2018 (Saturday) • Transfer 2 hours by van via Iximche Mayan ruins—Return to Guatemala City

Today we transfer to the famous Maya archaeology site of Iximche for a tour of this fascinating ancient site. Towards the back of the site is a lesser-known (to visitors), yet extremely important Maya spiritual, ceremony site. Here we will meet a local Shaman who will perform an authentic Maya ceremony in a local Maya language— join in as you wish….

Afterwards we will stop for a light lunch along the Pan American highway as we continue on to Guatemala City. Transfer directly to the airport or spend the night at our cozy hotel along a tree-lined street of the city.

**For those extending their journey to the famous Tikal ruins, you will be transferred to the airport. (NOTE: discounts apply for those leaving prior to the last night stay in Guatemala City).

May 06, 2018 (Sunday) • Transfer to airport for onward extensions or your return to US

Private transfers to the airport for your journey home.

TRIP COST

$3200.00 per person (double occupancy)

$625.00 single supplement

Trip Includes

  • Accommodation with breakfast
  • All private transfers and transportation
  • Entrance fees where noted
  • English speaking guides
  • Meals as indicated (meals only)
  • Mineral water and cold towel on car/van/bus

TRIP EXCLUDES

  • Flights to and from Guatemala
  • All airport taxes
  • Other meals and drinks
  • Personal expenses
  • Travel insurance
  • Other services not mentioned in the itinerary
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“Listen and Learn” instead of “Serve and Solve”

We will share some of GoPhilanthropic’s lessons learned over the years, such as the value of entering into visits with an openness to “listen and learn” instead of “serve and solve,” and ways to ensure we are respectful to culture and tradition while visiting. Learn how GoPhilanthropic Foundation selects the programs that they support. We will discuss both the opportunities and ethics of the use of photography in our journeys and explore ways to best capture and celebrate their dignity.

Recent History and Modern Day Challenges – a Local Perspective

Our local guides will provide insight into the historical and political influences that impact day to day life in SouthEast Asia. During our stay in each country we will enjoy discussion topics with them ranging from religion, war history, and societal challenges. Our guides will also provide valuable information regarding cultural norms and etiquette.

The Inspiration to Make a Difference

When visiting with grassroots programs in each of the countries, we meet with the founders or integral staff members who are inspired to make a difference in the lives of those they are supporting. These discussions will give us the chance to better understand the needs in the communities and how these founders have chosen to drive positive change for the future. This is a valuable opportunity to ask questions and share thoughts with respect to effective community development.

Our Journey: Reflections

At the end of the journey, you may wish to share your thoughts and reflections on what you experienced — the most difficult or inspirational moments, and the visits that made the most significant impressions during the journey. You may also wish to explore possible ways to engage further with the people and organizations you have visited.